I am glad that this Government, unlike the previous one, whose disastrous contract negotiations led to a decline in GP access, is making sure that out-of-hours care is as widely available as possible. Will the Secretary of State assure me that he will do whatever he can to ensure that places, such as Worcester, that have not yet been reached by the challenge fund will also see the benefits of this approach?
My hon. Friend is right to say that some bad changes were made. What will most benefit his constituents, whether or not they are part of the initial tranche of the Prime Minister’s challenge fund, is the reintroduction of named GPs for the over-75s. For people with complex long-term conditions, continuity of care is extremely important, and every single one of his constituents aged 75 or over will now get a named GP.
We are very pleased in Old Trafford to have secured funding for 80 extra care beds for one of the most deprived parts of my community. We also hope to be able to bring health care services, including GP surgeries, on to the same sites, but we are experiencing difficulty in unblocking funding via the NHS area team. Will the Secretary of State meet me to discuss this issue and how we might be able to move forward?
I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for his recent visit to Erewash. He has kindly offered to come back another time. We welcome the Prime Minister’s challenge fund being allocated to Erewash. May I reassure my right hon. Friend that our excellent GPs are working very hard to make sure that services and support are appropriately allocated in our community?
I thank my hon. Friend for her work to promote good health care in her area. I very much enjoyed meeting her local GPs. I was disappointed that it was only for about five minutes. I very much hope to go back and have a proper discussion. They were very enthusiastic about the Prime Minister’s challenge fund, and are making some very innovative changes.
May I push the Secretary of State on this matter? What my constituents want is to be able to get to see a GP when they really need one; they do not want to turn up in A and E just because they cannot get an appointment for a week. Is not poor management of GP surgeries—poor management from top to bottom—at the heart of this problem?
Actually, I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I think that we do have a problem. We have some fantastically good GP surgeries and some brilliant GPs, but we have not in the past had structures in place to make sure that we deal quickly with underperforming GP surgeries and, indeed, underperforming GPs. We need to have much more transparency of data so that we can see where the problems are. We have introduced a rigorous new inspection regime, with a new chief inspector of general practice, and I hope that that will go some way to addressing the issues he raises.
People ringing their surgery this morning only to be told that no appointments are available for days will be listening to the Secretary of State’s answers today and thinking that he is living in a different world. People’s real experience is that it is getting harder and harder to get a GP appointment under this Government, but for some it could get much worse. I recently visited a practice in east London that faces closure in October because of this Health Secretary’s changes to GP funding. NHS England says that 97 other practices are in the same position, affecting thousands of patients. Will he today give a guarantee that no practice will have to close?
Let us address this issue head on. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that it is totally wrong to have a system in which two neighbouring GP practices can be paid different sums of money for doing the same amount of work. We must have an equitable funding formula for GP practices, which is why we are phasing out the minimum practice income guarantee. That is a sensible decision. We are also taking measures to ensure that we do not affect patient care in the process. Of course we are looking at the individual cases carefully, but I am sure that he would agree that we have to fund GP practices equitably.